I finally made it to Gran Torino!! It seemed like everyone I knew had been before I got the chance to see it. My parents even saw it before me, they NEVER go to movies! Consequently, I had heard everything about the movie expect for its actual premise. People told me the language was too much, it's going to make me cry (it didn't), some of the actors are from St. Paul.... and so on. The general concensis was that I would love it though, and I did.
Gran Torino takes place in a predominantly Hmong neighborhood in the Midwest. The main character, Walter Kowalski, was your typical grumpy old man, bitter and very racist after his experience in the war which he holds secret for a majority of the movie. As the movie progresses, he (against his own wishes) befriends two of his neighbors; Thao and his sister Sue Vang Lor. Thao is facing extreme pressure to join a gang lead by his cousin, and his way in is to steal Walt's Gran Torino. As Thao and Walt become closer, Walt feels the need to protect him from the pressures of the gang. When the gang does a drive-by shooting on Thao and Sue's house and beat & rape Sue, it is the last straw. While Thao is eager to seek revenge, Walter comes up with a 'better' plan. He visits the gang on their territory and makes them think he it pulling a gun, so they all shoot him with the whole neighborhood as a witness. Though Walter loses his own life, he does something that means much more to him: getting the gang put in jail. He give the life back to one Hmong boy after years of guilt over the life of the young boy that he took in Vietnam.
From what I heard, I took this movie a lot differently that most people did. I didn't cry when Sue came in all bloodied up, I didn't cry and quite frankly I wasn't even suprised when Walt died. The things that hit me were the liking Walter took to his young Hmong neighbors, and oddly, the credits. I felt like I related very well to Sue, so when she was the one that came back beat up, I was a bit shocked but I did not cry. I felt like she was the strongest character in the movie. She stepped out of her boundaries many times to teach 'Wally' little things about the Hmong culture. Once Walt learned something about the culture, he quickly lost much of his prejudice. The other thing that stood out to me in the movie was the credits. When the movie ended, it didn't simply go to the black screen for the credits to roll over, it stayed on the image of the road that Thao and Walt's dog were driving down, Call me a nerd, but I LOVED this ending. It was the perfect contrast to Walt just dying. This way the viewer wouldn't focus on the somberness of death, but on the opportunities that Walt's choice opened up.
Another thing I loved was the way this movie fit into the rest of the course so far. Though the contrast was huge between Kalia's flowing, poetic memoir and Eastwood's rough, in-your-face movie, it was perfect. It gave us an opportunity to see similar stories in a completely different light. Also, it fit well with our winter reading The Middle of Everywhere. The challenges that Thao faces are very similar to those we read about there. Personally, I really liked the diversity that this movie provided to the course. It was nice to get out and DO something for class rather than just sitting and reading something.